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Khalifa Umar bin al-Khattab - Inter-Personal Relations and Interactions

Mugheera Bin Shu'Ba

Mugheera bin Shu'ba belonged to the tribe of Thaqeef of Taif. He was converted to Islam in 528 A.D. He took part in the battle of Yamama. He was a brave fighter. In one of the battles he lost an eye.

When Utba b. Ghazwan was the Governor of Basra, Mugheera was his deputy. In 639 A.D., Utba left for Mecca and Madina for performing Hajj and left Mugheera as the acting Governor of Basra.

At Madina, Utba waited on Umar and wanted to be relieved of the office of the Governor. Umar did not agree and Utba was required to return to Basra in national interest. On the way to Basra Utba fell off his camel and died from the fall. On the death of Utba, Umar confirmed Mugheera in his appointment as the Governor of Basra.

Mugheera b. Shu'ba was known for his weakness for women. He would marry women and would divorce them after some time to make room for more beautiful faces. In this way, he married no less than 80 wives, taking steps to ensure that at a time his wives were not more than four, the limit prescribed by the Shariah.

In those days at Basra, there was a beautiful woman Umm Jamil. She belonged to the same tribe as that of Mugheera. Her husband had died and she became notorious for loose morals. Mugheera was attracted by her and she visited him often.

Some Muslims in Basra became critical of the conduct of Mugheera. Among them was Abu Bakra Thaqeefi whose house across the street faced the house of Mugheera. One day a strong wind blew and the windows of the houses of Abu Bakra and Mugheera got opened through the force of the wind.

Abu Bakra saw through his window that in this house Mugheera was locked up in an uncompromising state with a woman. He thought that the woman was Umm Jamil. He had some friends with him, and they also saw Mugheera involved with a woman.

Abu Bakra Saqeefi wrote to Umar accusing Mugheera of adultery. The report was endorsed by four witnesses who had seen Mugheera in an uncompromising state with a woman.

Umar took prompt action. Umar appointed Abu Musa as the Governor of Basra and removed Mugheera from the office. Mugheera was summoned to Madina to face the trial. Abu Bakra and the other witnesses who had made the complaint were also summoned to Madina.

At the trial, Mugheera pleaded not guilty. His defence was that the woman in question was his wife and not Umm Jamil. With great indignation he averred that Abu Bakra and the men with him had no right to interfere in his privacy.

Abu Bakra on the other hand maintained that the woman was Umm Jamil. Three other witnesses corroborated the statement of Abu Bakra. The fourth witness Ziyad stated that he had seen the event, but he had not seen the face of the woman and did not know who she was. The other witnesses were cross examined, and it was found that there were some weak points in their evidence. They were asked whether the woman had her back or her face toward them. They said that she had their back to them. They tried to make out that even from her back she could be identified as Umm Jamil. They argued that the scandal of Mugheera and Umm Jamil was very common in Basra, and that lady was none else but Umm Jamil.

Under the Quranic law in order to press the charge of adultery definite evidence of four witnesses was necessary. As in this case the fourth witness was not sure of the identification of the woman, Mugheera was given the benefit of doubt and acquitted. Abu Bakra and his companions who had levelled the charge were punished with lashes for making a charge which could not be established.

In spite of his acquittal, Mugheera was not restored to the office of the Governor, and was detained in Madina. Mugheera made some show of indignation at having been treated shabbily in a case which was false. Umar called him to his presence and issued the warning:

"O Mugheera offer thanks to God that full evidence was not forthcoming against you, and you have been saved from disgrace by a technical flaw. Grounds of suspicion against you were very much there, and I have given you the benefit of doubt. Remember that if the evidence was complete, you would have been stoned to death."

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